Now in his mid-60s, film-maker and self-proclaimed iconoclast Barbet Schroeder is busier than ever. His new feature, Inju, The Beast In The Shadow, will be in competition at Venice and will screen in Toronto, just a year after his documentary Terror's Advocate, about controversial lawyer Jacques Verges, screened in Cannes. And he is now preparing A Very Simple Crime, which reunites him with writer Nicholas Kazan, with whom he collaborated on 1990 Oscar winner Reversal Of Fortune.
Inju, which will be released in France in mid-September, saw the much travelled Schroeder heading East. A hardcore thriller/horror adapted from a story by cult Japanese writer Rampo Edogawa, the film stars Benoit Magimel as a European novelist in Japan in love with a Japanese woman who is receiving death threats from her lover.
Produced by Said Ben Said, president of UGC International which is handling world sales, the $18.5m (EUR12m) film features Japanese, French and English dialogue.
'(It's an) extraordinary story by an extraordinary writer,' says Schroeder. 'He is a Japanese Edgar Allan Poe. I got very excited about this adventure of making a Japanese movie with Japanese crew. There were a hundred people in the crew.'
Schroeder laughs ruefully when asked whether working methods in Japan are the same as those in Hollywood or Europe. 'The process was much more complicated. It was actually excruciating... but when we started shooting, it was magical.'
The level of preparation and planning were exhaustive, he recalls, leaving little room for spontaneity. 'For a thriller, it's perfect. If it was a movie where you improvise because you find a new idea along the shoot, it would have been impossible.'
Schroeder began work on Inju days after the French release of Terror's Advocate (Artificial Eye will release the DVD in the UK this month). It is a documentary portrait of Jacques Verges, the lawyer who has represented such figures as Carlos the Jackal and Klaus Barbie. Inju, by contrast, is a genre piece. However, the director says there are common themes: 'They are both about seduction and manipulation.'
After Venice and Toronto, Schroeder begins pre-production on the English-language thriller A Very Simple Crime about 'the strange rivalry' between two brothers, which is due to shoot later in the year, probably in Canada. 'It's a project we've been working on for years. It's finally coming to life and is a complicated co-production with Canada, Germany, France and England,' Schroeder explains. UGC is driving the project.
Unlike many of his contemporaries from the New Wave era, Schroeder does not wax nostalgic about the 1960s or lament the death of auteur cinema. He is, he says, always looking forward. He has embraced the multimedia age, releasing Terror's Advocate in an interactive version on DVD and is employing the net to market Inju.
'I'm trying to escape the condition of the auteur because it's also a trap,' he says. 'Every movie is a new adventure. I try to surprise myself every time I do a movie.'
- See Venice festival focus, p14.